Cooper’s Call to Dock Member Pay Passes House Overwhelmingly

May 8, 2013
Press Release

Bill Would Withhold Congressional Pay if Debt Ceiling Isn’t Raised

WASHINGTON – A proposal first introduced by Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) to keep members of Congress from getting paid if the U.S. defaults on its debt passed the House today with 340 votes. 

“Defaulting on our debt is not an option, but if we do, then a paycheck for Members of Congress also shouldn’t be an option,” Cooper said. “The last time we played ‘chicken’ with the debt ceiling, our credit rating was downgraded as a result. Congress should be paid for performance, not failure.”

Earlier this week, Cooper introduced the bipartisan Stop Pay for Members Act (H.R. 1884), which formed the basis of an amendment to a Republican debt ceiling bill that passed the House today. Cooper spoke on the House floor yesterday about his bill as a remedy for persistent Congressional misbehavior.

Cooper voted for the amendment to stop paying Members in the event of default, but joined all Democrats in voting against the overall Republican debt ceiling bill because, in the event of default, it orders the Treasury Department to pay Chinese and other foreign bondholders first before paying seniors, veterans and members of the military.

“It’s unimaginable that Republicans are already making plans to default on our debt,” Cooper said. “Default would be a disaster for America, and this bill would make it worse by rewarding Chinese creditors while punishing innocent Americans.”

In February, Congress suspended the debt ceiling until May 19, but the U.S. Treasury Department is expected to use extraordinary measures to pay bills beyond that date, likely until the fall. At that point, Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling again or face defaulting on our national debt.

During the summer of 2011, Congress came within hours of not raising the debt ceiling, which historically has been a mundane parliamentary procedure allowing the U.S. to pay bills it has already incurred. Citing Congressional gridlock and brinksmanship, Standard & Poor’s downgraded America’s credit rating. Cooper first introduced the Stop Pay for Members Act during that crisis.